The directorial debut from David Kane is one of the most enjoyable of the recent spate of British rom-coms (although the likes of If Only don't exactly offer the stiffest competition). This Year's Love is a bittersweet examination of the difficulties of relationships during the late '90s, incorporating laughter and pathos, joy and heartbreak, at times feeling like a hipper version of a Mike Leigh film.
The humour here relies on a mixture of narrative coincidences, comic events (a tattoo performed on amphetamines; drinking a flaming sambuca) and some pointed one-liners ("You wear stone-washed jeans so you don't have an opinion," declares the acerbic Sophie to a hapless Liam).
Having created a group of believable late-twentysomething/early-thirtysomething characters, Kane is rewarded with excellent performances from a talented young British cast. The actors grasp the confusions, contradictions and muddled emotions which dominate their roles. Particularly impressive are Henshall, who combines easy-going charm with a powerful sense of longing, and a dreadlocked Ehle, whose Rodean-educated Sophie masks her troubled past behind a veneer of bossy self-confidence. Kathy Burke is also terrific as the self-aware Marey ("I'm a fat bird who's expected to be funny"), who possesses incredible dignity and resilience.
Admittedly, some of the soundtrack choices (such as Get It On accompanying a frantic sex scene) lack imagination, and there's nothing remarkable about the visual style. But Kane makes effective use of his colourful Camden Town locations, successfully juggles his various storylines over the film's three-year period, and (thankfully) avoids a simplistic resolution